Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive in the U.S. on Tuesday for a three-city tour that security officers expect will bring about the largest security operation in the country’s history, NBC News reports.
Pope Francis’ five-day trip marks his first ever official visit to the U.S. The pope will be hosting 16 events across Washington, New York, and Philadelphia, presenting an unprecedented security challenge to law enforcement officials and security personnel.
In his U.S. visit, Pope Francis will be attended by a convoy armed with electronic countermeasures against bomb threats and guarded by sharpshooters, SWAT teams, the Secret Service, and the FBI. A nationwide network of intelligence analysts will be monitoring for any signs of threats against the pope and are set to relay information to the proper channels whenever necessary. Newsweek also reports that a traffic management plan that will operate in accordance to security measures has been set in place.
Pope Francis is scheduled to be greeted by President Obama and the first lady, along with other dignitaries, when he arrives at Joint Base Andrews on Tuesday. After a visit to the White House, Pope Francis will travel along Constitution Avenue for the papal parade. The pope will then visit New York, where he will host a mass at the Madison Square Garden. Pope Francis is set to host another mass in Philadelphia where more than 1.5 million citizens are expected to attend.
Dan Bongino, who worked with the Secret Service for over two decades, acknowledged the task ahead of them.
“It is the largest security operation that i think we are ever going to see.”
The Secret Service has been tasked to organize and enforce the entire security operation, with tens of thousands of police, military, and counter-terrorism personnel under their employ.
No imminent threat against Pope Francis has been revealed by the authorities, though there are concerns about his safety due to the threat presented by ISIS.
According to security officials, at least 7,000 uniformed officers and several thousand undercover cops will be deployed on the streets of New York during the pope’s visit.
In a statement to Today on Monday, NYPD Deputy Commissioner John Miller confirmed that security preparations are already in full force, also calling the pope’s U.S. visit “the largest and most complicated undertaking in the history of the NYPD” on account of its overlap with the U.N. General Assembly, which took place this week. He also said a network of cameras, detectors, and sensors will be set up in the city’s strategic locations to shore up security.
“We’re going to have a lot of eyes.”
Pope Francis’s New York visit has an ironclad schedule, with an itinerary that includes St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Central Park, Ground Zero, Madison Square Garden, and a school in East Harlem.
Secret Service Director Joe Clancy said that agents have studied Pope Francis’ habits and tendencies and are ready to respond in coordination with his personal security detail.
“He (Pope Francis) likes to, for example, see babies and go up to handicapped individuals,” Clancy told NBC News. “So we got a good sense of his movements.”
Philadelphia’s security set up is just as impressive as the police force will receive extra assistance from 300 bombs tech and 165 bomb dogs. Thirty-one checkpoints with magnetometers will be set up in strategic locations all over the city to detect possible bomb threats. The National Guard will be deploying 2,000 members to help with crowd control as well.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter told NBC News that he expects about 700,000 citizens to line the Ben Franklin Pathway to get a glimpse of Pope Francis. The mayor added that he’s not anticipating any problems when the pope visits the World Meeting of Families on Saturday and Sunday.
“It is a lot of people — no question about it. But we can handle it.”
U.S. officials are confident that they have taken all the necessary precautions and preparations to assure the pope’s safety.
“I can assure you, Pope Francis will be very, very safe here in the United States of America,” he promised.
To see NBC Nightly News’ coverage on the Pope Francis’ U.S. five-day visit, watch the video below.
[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]